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Error-riddled textbook has JFK alive in 1965


AUSTIN, Texas -- It's been nearly a year since the Glencoe Division of Macmillan/McGraw-Hill School Publishing offered to sell the state of Texas a history textbook riddled with errors, and the company still hasn't gotten it right.

When a special state school board committee meets today to consider the latest version of the company's "American Odyssey: The U.S. in the Twentieth Century," members will discuss a book that includes statements such as "1965-1969: general escalation of the (Vietnam) War under presidents Johnson, Kennedy and Nixon."

John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated in 1963, obviously was not president during the 1965-69 Vietnam escalation.

"This is going to ruin the day for a whole lot of publishers," said State Board of Education Vice Chairman Bob Aikin, a member of the ad hoc committee.

Texas is considered a test market for books. It has so many students that publishers tend to offer other states only books that have been constructed for approval there.

What began as a routine textbook adoption cycle last spring has turned into a nine-month nightmare for publishers and state officials, as educators and citizens acting as an unofficial truth squad for textbook accuracy have uncovered hundreds of embarrassing errors and called into question the entire process.

Three times the books supposedly have been purged of errors, and three times the same watchdogs have found hundreds of others.

"These books never should have been submitted to Texas for consideration," said Rep. Kent Grusendorf, R-Arlington, a member of the House Public Education Committee and a former member of the State Board of Education.

"We [taxpayers] are paying $20 million for these textbooks, and part of that is assumed to go to writers and editors; we aren't just buying paper and ink," Grusendorf said. "The onus for accurate books should be on the publishers, and the rules of the State Board of Education should be such that the publishers have a clear incentive to submit accurate textbooks on the first round -- rather than erroneous texts on the fourth round."

Other errors Grusendorf found in the Glencoe book include:

* Australia and New Zealand were Third World countries during the 1960s.

* Inflation in the United States was 10 percent rather than 3 percent in 1960.

* Benito Mussolini came to power in Italy in the early 1930s rather than in 1922.

Joe Bill Watkins, an attorney representing the Association of American Publishers, which includes Glencoe's parent company, said that despite the repeated adverse publicity, the books are of high quality.

"It seems to me the fundamental question on the table is whether the state wants books that are considered overall good books. The error thing has made them look bad, [but] they meet new and innovative requirements," Watkins said.

Watkins said that publishers traditionally revise their product from the first public hearing in the selection process until it is being delivered to school district warehouses.

"I would say they are as close to being as good as can be done," he added. "I think publishers have always done editing up to the final printing. What is being publicized now (the new errors) has not always been publicized."

Grusendorf said he wants the state school board to tighten the adoption process further and that he may reintroduce legislation that he sponsored last year to make publishers liable to the state for three times the purchase price of a book if it is found to contain substantial factual errors.

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